Arizona vetoes bill allowing businesses to turn away gay customers on religious grounds

Three Republican state senators who voted for the measure subsequently reversed their support and urged governor Jan Brewer to act

Los Angeles

The Republican Governor of Arizona, Jan Brewer, has vetoed a bill that would have allowed the state’s business owners to turn away gay customers on the basis of their religious beliefs. The bill, known as SB 1062, was passed by the state’s legislature last week with the overwhelming support of Ms Brewer’s party. Its social conservative backers said the bill was a matter of religious liberty; opponents said it amounted to legalisation of anti-gay discrimination.

The bill drew strong criticism not only from the US gay community and its allies, but also from big business and from Republican national leaders, including former presidential nominees Mitt Romney and John McCain, who represents Arizona in the US Senate. Three of the Republican state senators who had voted for the measure subsequently reversed their support and urged Ms Brewer to use her power of veto.

Among the companies who condemned the measure were Apple, American Airlines and Marriott. The state’s Super Bowl Committee criticised the bill; the 2015 Super Bowl is due to be held in Phoenix, the state capital. The Hispanic National Bar Association has already cancelled plans to hold its 2015 convention in the city, saying it was “imperative” to “take immediate action in the presence of injustice.”

In a televised news conference on Wednesday, Ms Brewer said the bill did not “address a specific or present concern related to religious liberty in Arizona.” The Governor had spent the day discussing the bill with supporters and opponents, but decided it could lead to “unintended and negative consequences,” she said, adding: “I have not heard one example in Arizona where a business owner's religious liberty has been violated.”

Similar bills have already failed in Kansas and Idaho, and another is presently being considered in Utah.

On Wednesday, a federal judge in Texas struck down that state’s long-standing ban on gay marriage. US district judge Orlando Garcia wrote that a 2005 amendment to the state’s Constitution defining marriage as between a man and a woman “demeans the dignity” of same-sex couples “for no legitimate reason.”

The judge stayed his ruling pending an appeal by Texas state officials, many of whom oppose gay marriage. Texas Governor Rick Perry said, “Texans spoke loud and clear by overwhelmingly voting to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman in our constitution, and it is not the role of the federal government to overturn the will of our citizens.”

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